Driver’s seat

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Summer season is almost here and, as I’m sure all the truckers are dreading, with it the increased traffic of daytrippers and holidaymakers on their way to the cottage or campgrounds.
Whatever route they might take, it’s bound to be clogged and the irritation factor is sure to go up as grannies and A-type personalities on overdue vacation make their way onto the nation’s highways.
Here in Ontario, the route we take to go “up north” is Highway 400 and then Hwy. 11, all the way past Huntsville and then just a little further along.
The most psycho of drivers tend to leave us just after Barrie en route to Wasaga and its dead fish beach, but it’s never quite smooth sailing even after that.
The Ontario Provincial Police has been quite helpful the last few years with their on-the-road blitzes to weed out delinquent drivers, blitzes which evoke the most dangerous and risky of military campaigns.
“Operation: Get your smelly feet off the dashboard” and “Operation: Your dog’s hanging out the window again” result in hilarious fodder for radio and TV morning shows on Mondays after a long weekend, when the most ridiculous of attempted road feats are relayed to the giggling public (the public that wasn’t, of course, actually on the road WITH these yahoos.)
It isn’t uncommon to hear about road trippers who had a trailer hitched to the car with a coat hanger, or who were setting up their hibachi barbecues in the back seat, etc.
Then there are the serial speeders who “were just trying to pass” or “who were just trying to avoid a bee that was trying to get in the window.”
I fear that my husband, while not a speeder per se, could do with a little talking-to from a Uniform.
He tends to drive in the passing lane from Toronto at least until Gravenhurst, when the passing lane kind of comes and goes.
I have been conditioned out of this by a father who used to haul a trailer up north and who made me follow him, in the slow lane, all the way up at 80 km/h.
Any attempts to pass him resulted in a stony glare until I slowed back down again.
I’m glad of the OPP presence, even though they do tend to slow things down, because my biggest fear is the drivers heading THE WRONG WAY on the highway, something I fear we hear about a little too often.
Despite the driving woes, a long road trip does offer a chance to “stop and smell the roses” so to speak.
Everyone has their favourite pit stops along the way, if a route is familiar enough.
If we’re having breakfast on the road, we like the Husky truck stop at Bradford, for example.
We used to purposely bypass Weber’s burgers near Orillia but now that the mom and pop restaurants have all been replaced by huge oil refineries attached to McDonald’s, Weber’s is at least fast and kid-friendly, with a huge picnic area in the back, people walking their dogs, and old VIA rail cars to eat in. And, of course, ice cream that isn’t made with petroleum products.
There’s also a nearby old-fashioned candy store and Timmy Ho’s in case you need a pick-me-up.
There is a spot near Gravenhurst where Hwy 11 curves to the right. If you glance right as you go around the bend, wow, the view of a narrow path of sparkling water against the rocky walls of the Canadian Shield is breathtaking.
So, in my opinion, are rolls of hay in the morning mist and the yellow rapeseed fields in mid-summer.
For in-car entertainment, we see who can spot the first cattle and then that person has to moo. Needless to say, the moos become tiresome after awhile but the sight of these lumbering beasts somehow never does. Aha, so that’s the source of our non-fat dairy!
With regard to entertainment, by the way, it used to be that listening to radio programs in the car while heading up north, you got indie French pop on CBC Radio’s northern stations or the elevator music of CHAY FM, once you got past the Orillia frontier.
Then there were the small local rock stations where you could hear young DJs making on-air errors and sneaking on their personal playlists.
Now of course everything is syndicated and Orillia sounds like downtown L.A.
And in our car, with the advent of satellite radio, the peace has been further broken by Howard Stern whining ad nauseam and my daughter’s Disney station. (not to mention the beeps and plugs and wires of my husband’s intravenous cell and headphones. Can’t the OPP stop him for a change?)
After awhile I’m almost praying for “Raindrops keep falling on my head” from good old CHAY.
I have a friend who plops her kid in the carseat and blasts heavy metal bands all the way to the cottage, because after all, it isn’t the kid’s car, but in our car we take turns.
First it’s my daughter’s choice then my husband’s. They both make fun of my music so it’s not worth the bother.
Used to be, Friday nights, we’d wait til 9 pm, head out on the highway, and bypass the rush hour traffic on the 400, making it a smooth 2.5 hour drive and getting in to the cottage just before midnight.
That’s no longer an option travelling with a toddler. Not to mention that I don’t think we see that well at night anymore and the risk of hitting deer and moose just freaks me out.
(Correction: I don’t see that well at night anymore and my husband can’t take the backseat driving when I THINK I see a moose ahead!)
While she is a good-natured and flexible kid, having a toddler in the car means loading up on wipes, paper towels, drink boxes, a handy change of clothes, kid-friendly CDs, a snack that won’t choke her if we hit a bump, and various other sundries.
My husband rolls his eyes when he sees the bags that need packing into our small car for a 3-day trip, but when the need arises he’s the one who turns to me and says
“Did you bring the wipes?”

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Julia Kuzeljevich is managing editor of Motortruck magazine, as well as sister publication Canadian Transportation & Logistics and With nearly seven years’ experience writing for the Canadian transportation industry, Julia specializes in human interest, in-depth news and business articles of interest to the trucking and logistics sectors. Julia has a degree in languages with a postgraduate specialization in journalism, and work experience in the air transportation industry.

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